So I was sitting on a bench in the shade outside the public library, and this woman came up to me and said this: “Can I pray for you?”
I was a wee bit taken aback by the sheer impertinence of the request. What made her single me out as the recipient of her prayers (there were other people sitting nearby)? What made her think her prayers would be particularly helpful? What made her believe it was perfectly appropriate to interrupt my reading so she could address a request to her Invisible Friend in the Clouds to look over me? How would she have felt if I’d interrupted her prayers in order to recite a passage from the novel I was reading?
But at the same time I was sort of touched that she wanted to help a stranger, even if the stranger didn’t ask for, want, or need her help. While I found her arrogance and impertinence annoying and offensive, I was sort of moved by her sincerity.
So I said “Sure, go ahead on, pray away.” And she did. Then smiled and went away, leaving me sitting there feeling both touched and annoyed, and more than a little creeped out.
I’ve spent the early part of the summer re-reading the old adventure novels I loved as a boy. I began with Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini–a novel set during the French Revolution, with one of the best opening lines ever written: He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. Sabatini loved that line so much he used it as his epitaph. He wrote a sequel, Scaramouche the Kingmaker, a decade later–though whether he wrote it because he liked the character or because he needed the cash, I’ve no idea. In any event, it’s a novel that probably should have remained unwritten.
I also read The Prisoner of Zenda, written by Anthony Hope in 1894. It’s an impossibly romantic story, and I mean ‘romantic’ in the old sense of the term. The novel has the most wonderful sociopathic villain, with a perfectly villainous name: Rupert of Hentzau. It also inspired an entire (and, sadly, cheesy) sub-genre of adventure novels in which dissolute or unfortunate members of royalty are temporarily replaced by doppelgangers who manage to save the kingdom. As with Sabatini, Hope wrote a sequel–this one entitled Rupert of Hentzau, featuring that same charming sociopath. The sequel was less successful, though not as painfully bad as Sabatini’s.
Now I’m reading The Four Feathers, the 1902 novel by A.E.W. Mason about a young man raised in a British military family who is labeled a coward (the accusation of cowardice is accompanied by a white feather). It takes place in the Sudan during the early 1880s, when the forces of the Mahdi took on the British Empire–one of the first modern clashes between imperialism and religious fanaticism. The protagonist proves his courage by secretly traveling to the Sudan (in disguise, of course–romantic fictional heroes always travel in disguise) and over the course of six years, rescuing his accusers and returning to each of them the white feather. Happily, Mason didn’t write a sequel.
Had this been a film script, it would have been embarrassing. The ‘plucky never-say-die Americans’ has been the tritest of movie tropes for at least half a century. And yet yesterday the U.S. Women’s Soccer team turned it into reality.
They played 55 minutes with only ten players against Brazil’s eleven. At times it seemed as if Brazil had twelve players, counting the Australian referee who made several questionable calls–most of which went against the U.S. The most egregious call rescinded a brilliant penalty-kick save by Hope Solo (and c’mon, a goalkeeper named Hope Solo? Impossible outside of a film script), giving Brazil a second chance at the PK, which they naturally completed. At the end of regulation time the score was tied 1-1, sending the match into mandatory extended time. At the end of the extended time the U.S. was down 2-1, and the match would have been lost.
But in the best movie tradition, a Brazilian player had faked an injury to run out the clock. Had she faked it better, Brazil would have won. But the moment she was carried off the pitch on a stretcher, she leaped to her feet and ran to the sideline to be returned to the game. It was such a blatant ruse that she was given a yellow card and three minutes of stoppage time was added.
Two minutes and twenty seconds into the stoppage time, the U.S. scored the tying goal. And who scored? Only the scrappy team captain who’d been in scoring slump, of course. That’s how it’s done on the big screen. The tie meant the match would be decided by penalty kicks. The U.S. team succeeded in each PK. Brazil, however, had one rejected. By Hope Solo. Just like in the movies.
Lawdy, I am seriously at risk here. I am easily seduced by a good game. Easily seduced. It’s one reason I have so very few games. One reason–who am I kidding? It’s the reason I have so very few games.
But here is an odd thing. For some reason, when I play Angry Birds I turn into Omar from The Wire. I find myself saying things like “Them’s some bomb-dropping motherfuckers” or “Eat that toucan, bitch.” I never talk like that. I never say ‘bitch.’ These are cartoon birds…where does ‘bitch’ come from?
It’s never been easy to be a writer. Never. I’m not talking about the act of writing, though that can be difficult as well. I’m talking about all the associated aspects of writing. Finding the time to write. Finding an agent. Finding a publisher. Finding an audience.
With the advent of e-publishing, some of those chores have disappeared. But other chores have taken their place. You no longer need an agent…but you probably need Facebook. You no longer need a traditional publisher…but you probably need a website. You don’t have to live in New York City anymore…but you probably need social media.
So here I am. I’ve done all this before. I’ve had blogs, and let them fade away. I’ve used Twitter, but only to make announcements for Utata.org. I’ve avoided Facebook, but I’ll be joining it soon. These are the things you have to do.
It’s not a bad deal, really.